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A review by slydos, 30th January 2004
From Russian developer's studio Saturn+ we already know the fantasy
adventure "Jazz & Faust" (Adventure-Archiv review). "Midnight Nowhere" now has been published for the
German-speaking countries by Data Becker one year after release in Eastern Europe and Eastern
Asia. It's a dark, bloody horror adventure - nothing for sensitive minds.
The story reminds from the introduction of classics like "Countdown" by Access Software or "Sanitarium". Our nameless leading actor awakes in a mortuary. But he cannot think much about why he lost his memory and how he came here - the room, he is in and all further areas, which he will discover and examine, are witnesses of unbelievable acts of violence - everywhere blood, destroyed furniture and... corpses, aplenty corpses!
Task of our character is to restore his identity. He must first access the quite secure hospital complex, open doors in the most diverse kind, examine areas and corpses, draw his conclusions from found documents, videos, pictures, documents and other clues.
It seems that a "monster" committed all these murders!
Police and military are powerless. During the game we experience that the murders drag on
over many years, a large part of the population of Black Lake already fled and a
inhibiting wall was established. The murders decreased. Some years ago even a gameshow was
established named "Black Oasis", where volunteers going to Black Lake. Confused?
The Clou, the surprising solution of the story takes place in the very last scene.
After the smooth installation of 2 CDROMs and watching a short intro, in which official police reports of the last years are imparted, you arive in the main menu which has the shape of an enormous wrist-watch. Here one can start the game, save or load and set the options.
Attached to the game is only a short, 8 page manual in the DVD box. A more extensive, illustrated German manual is however installed in the game directory as pdf-file together with links to the support and homepage, which can even be activated off-line.
In the intro, which is accompanied by exciting music, we awake in the darkness of a plastic corpse bag - we hear someone breathe in Darth Vader-style, until the zipper of the bag can be opened and the camera reveals the revived from the feet to the head!
We can stop the intro with ESC and start to free our hero from his
We control our hero in 3rd-person perspective with the mouse. Only key input is ESC, leading us to the main menu and back. The number of savegames (one can scroll through them) doesn't seem to be limited, but therefore the number of characters (8 letters - a DOS relict) which can be stored in addition to the pictures of the scenes. In the options I would like to point out the function 'screen gamma', which is particularly important, in order to lighten the usually very dark scenarios.
A left-click lets our hero run to a point at the screen, but also select one of the always visible action-icons at the top of the screen. After selecting such an icon, e.g. the icons for 'take' or 'use' the cursor takes over its shape. If we look at an item, we get a description by our hero in text and speech. With a small blue arrow the cursor indicates the places, where one can make a scene change.
A right-click opens the inventory bar at the bottom of the screen and closes it again. We can select objects, examine them with the look-icon or combine them with the use-icon. By and by the inventory stores a whole set of partly more than once applicable items.
The handling did not succeed completely, since we are forced to a lot of not necessary clicks: if we open the inventory, then the take-icon is automatically selected. If we would like to look e.g. at all collected playing cards, we must select the look-icon in each case and click on the appropriate card. After closing the zoom view, also each time the inventory is closed too and everything must be played through again.
The object puzzles are from the beginning of medium difficulty but become quite complex by and by. We must search objects and sometimes also create them, and should not hesitate to chop off the finger of one of the corpses. We will again and again have more or less harmless contact with the present dead ones.
Our hero must note a lot of information, which he can profitably use later, e.g. passwords and codes. Since there is a note book function not until the middle of the game, (only storing the most important information), the player is usually forced to note numbers and facts. That can be a memo in a lying about sex magazine or a briefly faded in security code from a monitoring video.
"Midnight Nowhere" is a pure adventure game, i.e. there are no action or dexterity elements and also no Game-Overs. Even if we can deal at certain places with puzzles in different order, there are key puzzles, whose solution is a precondition for getting ahead. The entire game is divided into 3 sections, from which in each case no return to a previous game section is possible.
The puzzle solution is particularly made more difficult by 2 factors: on the one hand the icons for 'take' and 'use' are not constantly used for the same kind of actions, so e.g. an object often can be examined with the use-icon but then also taken up with it. On the other hand the German translation is in parts so poor, that you not only have to brood over the sense of sayings but also are confused by wrong denomination of objects.
Door opening and password puzzles outweigh. The mid section of the
game is the most interesting part, in which we have to make more complex manipulations and
also must solve some knowledge puzzles in combination with dialogues with the few living
NPCs of the game.
Unfortunately the German translation of "Midnight Nowhere" does not succeed. This results mainly from the above mentioned errors, which affect the understanding of the story and also the ability of solving/not solving puzzles (for example the mix-up of the terms floppy-disk (Diskette) and CD in one of the last puzzles). Most of the time you ask yourself, what our hero actually wants to say with his cryptic comments about this or that object. The English translation of the extensive demo I played some time ago (approximately half of the original game) seemed to me more felicitous and I assume this also for the English version, which will be released in February.
Positive are the translations of the most ingame graphics, which contain texts, and that are not few. Here a a lot of efforts were made, to suitably translate the many posters, pictures, documents, notes, pin-ups, books etc., even if they don't have to do anything with the puzzle solution. There you can find surprisingly many humorous allusions e.g. about a Arnold Braunschweiger, who has wrote the book "Bodybuilding for Beginners" or a manual for Windows 2015. There is also a lot of salacious illustrations from the therapeutic Kamasutra to various pin-ups and many pictures which reminded me of the style of Manfred Deix.
Unfortunately not everything was translated into German, so that one e.g. must recognize in the English intro that Black Lake is actually called Chernozersk or so and there are even more Russian or English texts. There's a lot of westeastern mixing up, times with English terms, times with Russian. Surprising also the most diverse data from 2015 to 2025. One gets again and again told a newer date and asks oneself eventually whether a decade of continuous massacres could serve as convincing basis for our game background.
If you regard the miserable text translation, it surprises
nevertheless that at least the German dubbing sounds not so bad at all. Our hero usually
talks to himself and has only few dialogues with other characters, but those succeeded
very well, albeit not as expressive as could be.
Our very dark 3D-character (he is wearing a black sweatshirt in opposite to an earlier version) moves in a very realistic and detailed 2D-environment. The game mostly takes place in the interiors of a hospital, a jailhouse and a police station. The character animations are reticent, rather rigid, there is no mimic and little gesturing. But the camera positions of the normal side view change - depending upon scene - to plan view on diagonal from down or above view. There are no camera changes within a scene, except you click on an object for a zoom.
From the beginning everything should look dark and makabre. Only few, sometimes flickering sources of light provide brightness. Often one must adjust the screen gamma, to be able to examine dark corners or read some texts. In most rooms we find blood spots or whole puddles of blood, a lot of devastated furniture, as if fights would have taken place. However the scenes do not seem to have been comfortable before devastation, but rather run-down and also not the most modern.
Many of the posters and photos are surreally alienated and deal with Sex, drugs and violence. We learn about the the former life of the corpses, by searching through their things or desks, sometimes also by the scarce comments of our hero, if we understand them. While he thinks about, who he is actually, we ask us whether it is generally worth to survive in this end time chaos at all.
More alive the scenes in the prison with the other captives and
guards, which however only remain an intermezzo and again are replaced by more cold corpse
scenes. "Midnight Nowhere" wants to work creepy only by the exhibition of
corpses, music or by all means existing, suitable sounds are rather unimportant for the
No technical errors or game crashes occurred.
Thus we have reached the crux of the matter: the story offers exciting starting points, which were however realized unexitingly. No thrilling musical crescendo at the sight of a new corpse, not even the lifting of a brow! Our hero walkds around the dead apparently unaffected. The constant threat by the mysterious killer doesn't seem to frighten him likewise and then finally moved myself just as little. Even if the whole story is full of incrediblenesses, it's nevertheless dissolved credible - more than it was the case with "The Black Mirror" e. g..
"Midnight Nowhere" is for people starting from 16 years, and addresses such players, who have themselves prepared against a bloody ambient inclusive violance and sex and also against the description of drug consumption. Thus rather a game for adults, who do not have anything against blood-smeared scenes and lying about corpses. Likewise one should forearm against a bleak environment with little communication, which often runs off misleadingly and medium puzzles. The label 'horror' better matches to the translation.
Total rating: 61%
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